Susan & grandson Sawyer
Susan with new grandson Sawyer





Councilmember Susan Wengraf

Newsletter #21 


Summer, 2012



Dear Friends, Neighbors and District 6 Constituents,


    If any of you have tuned in to recent council meetings and noticed that my chair was empty, it is because I have been in Santa Monica helping my daughter with our first grandbaby.  What a joy!


    However, with modern technology I have been able to teleconference and participate in all the Berkeley City Council meetings.  I watch live as it is being streamed on my laptop, and I can listen and participate in all the discussions through my cell phone.  This temporary arrangement has been a terrific solution to my need to be with my family and to my very serious commitment to represent all of you on the Council.


    We are on summer break now but work does not stop. Most of the Council uses this time to prepare for items that are introduced in September when the City Council resumes meeting.


    My office will be open during limited hours throughout the month of August. If you have any ideas or issues that you would like to discuss with me, please give me a call at 981-7160.  I welcome your questions and suggestions as we try to tackle the challenges of the coming year.

My best regards,    





Included in this newsletter is information about:

Officer_WengrafCouncilmember Turns Cop, Catches Thief!

Berkeley City Councilmember Susan Wengraf says she is considering a second career as a Berkeley police officer - maybe.                                                               Photo: Mark Berger

    The evening that I signed up for a ride-a-long with the Berkeley Police Department was exciting and satisfying! Please read the story below, as presented in Berkeleyside, on June 28, 2012 by Tracey Taylor.


    On a recent Friday evening, City Councilmember Susan Wengraf put on a heavy bulletproof jacket and went on a ride-along with a Berkeley Police patrol officer.  By the end of a thoroughly exciting night, Wengraf was talking enthusiastically about a second career in law enforcement - she had also been instrumental in solving a crime.


    The ride-along - which was a first for Wengraf, who looks after District 6 in the Berkeley hills - started out routinely with the police officer responding to calls coming in over the dispatch radio.  "There was a traffic accident with a woman who was 7-months pregnant," recalled Wengraf.  "A call about a 5-year old child who was missing, and an alarm going off at a home on Indian Rock."


    After a couple of hours roaming the city streets, there was word of a house robbery on Buena Vista Way, right in the heart of Wengraf's district.  The suspect had fled the scene, but there was a description, as a neighbor had seen him.


    The patrol officer responded and headed towards the crime scene.  It was Berkeley High graduation day, however, and the traffic around the Greek Theater was snarled up.  As the police car made its slow way along Hearst Avenue, Wengraf was looking out the window when she saw a man who fit the description issued by the dispatcher - right down to the fact that he was on a skateboard.  "There he is," she shouted to the police officer.


    The suspect was heading onto the UC Berkeley campus, so the officer called in to the UCPD dispatcher to alert them and continued heading to Buena Vista.  Once there, the officer spoke to a community member who had seen the burglar in his neighbor's home.  He and his wife were driven down to the Cal campus where the suspect had been apprehended.  They identified him and the suspect was detained.


    "It was so exciting," said Wengraf a few days later, adding that it all came together because of an alert neighbor and an efficient police response.  "The neighbor had heard a noise in the backyard of his neighbor and it didn't sound right," she says.  "The two jurisdictions were cooperative and got on the case right away.  And the whole thing was solved within half an hour."


  She concedes that the fact that the patrol officer had an extra pair of eyes played a part.


    "I helped catch a criminal. It was so much more satisfying than a City Council meeting," she concludes.

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chipper2012 Chipper Program Schedule  

 Brush chipper



    We are entering high fire season and the danger from wildfire in the north Berkeley hills is very high!  Please be proactive and trim your vegetation.  Reducing the fuel load is a critical step towards safety for all of us!

    You pay a surcharge on your tax bill for this program, so try to make use of it.  Please check the map and schedule below so that you can plan ahead to use the second pass of the chipper program, if you missed the first one.


    If you should require additional information regarding this matter or any other fire prevention matter, you may contact the Fire Department at 981-5585.

    Please click here for a map and the scheduled chipper pickup dates for your area.

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gayleyGayley Road Closure

 road closed  

    UC Berkeley is working to repair and repave the roadway on the east edge of campus this summer.  Construction is currently underway on Gayley Road and Piedmont Ave from Hearst Ave to Bancroft Way.  It is expected to continue through late August.


    Motorists should expect delays as long as 5-10 minutes during work hours. Using alternate routes, if possible, is strongly recommended.


    Access for emergency response vehicles will be maintained at all times.  Any questions or concerns should be directed to Christine Shaff, UC Berkeley Facilities Services, at 510 643-4793 or

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historyEmbracing Berkeley's History


     Take a walk through Berkeley's history by visiting the recently-completed website of the Berkeley Historical Plaque Project.  Since 1997, a small handful of dedicated Berkeley citizens have identified locations of historical import, working with building owners to develop and install the iconic green oval plaques that identify the names, dates and significance of the designated.


    Every plaque is included on the website catalogue and categorized by geographical area. The site includes a listing of "E-Plaques" that virtually document historic buildings, homes of notable Berkeley residents, and even unique natural phenomena.  Ever wonder where A's manager Billy Martin, photographer Dorothea Lange or physical fitness expert Jack LaLanne lived?  Check the site out.  Community members are invited to make contributions with texts of their own.


    "With time, our website will come to serve as a collaborative portrait of our city and it's past.  It will form a mosaic of sites that reveal and define Berkeley.  As this website grows we don't know what we will discover, but we anticipate surprises."

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SidewalkSidewalk Repair Program

Uplifted Sidewalk  


    Those of us who walk around town know that our sidewalks are in poor condition and can be very hazardous.  Last year, the City initiated a new policy regarding sidewalk repair that you should be aware of.  Please read below:


Sidewalk Program
    For Emergency Sidewalk problems, please contact Kenneth Emeziem of the Engineering Division at 981-6444 or e-mail.  Sidewalk inspections are conducted within 5 working days of receipt of the complaint.
    To report broken sidewalks, visit the Online Service Center or call 311.
    In order to improve the quality of sidewalks in Berkeley, the City will begin sharing the liability and the repair costs for broken sidewalks with property owners.  Property owners can take advantage of the 50-50 cost-sharing program by getting their sidewalks on the repair schedule.


    State law has long held that property owners are fully responsible for keeping sidewalks in safe condition.  However, to ensure that sidewalks provide safe passage for everyone, the City has been performing many needed repairs.


    In the past, the City requested reimbursement for the cost of repair, depending on the cause of the deterioration.  City staff and residents alike spent a lot of time trying to determine responsibility for the damage.  This policy led to disputes over the cause of sidewalk deterioration and reduced the amount of City resources available to fix sidewalks.


    To improve the quality of sidewalks in Berkeley, the City will split the cost of fixing the sidewalk on a 50-50 basis.  This increases the amount available for sidewalk repair and thus, the number of sidewalks that can be repaired.  The policy is effective October 1, 2011.

Sidewalk Repair FAQ


There is damaged sidewalk in front of the property I own. What does the sidewalk repair policy mean to me?


The City will inspect the sidewalk and will schedule the damaged sections for replacement if necessary.  You will be billed for only half of the repair costs.
Are there any exceptions to the 50-50 policy?
Yes. The responsible property owner will pay the whole cost if:
  • the sidewalk was damaged due to intentional acts of the   property owner;
  • the property owner replaces the sidewalk independent of the City's Sidewalk Repair Program;
  • it's a new sidewalk as a result of a new development or redevelopment project.
How do I know if my sidewalk needs to be repaired? Can I report any broken sidewalk?
Look for uplifted, cracked or deteriorated sidewalk.  A basic guideline is that breaks bigger than ¾ of an inch should be reported.
Visit the City online service center or call 981-CITY or 311 from any landline in Berkeley.  You can call about your own sidewalk or any other broken sidewalk you encounter in Berkeley.  An Engineering Inspector will look at the sidewalk and make a determination.
What if the damage is done by a tree that is in the City's planting strip?

State law holds property owners responsible for maintaining the sidewalk, and the presence of street trees is no exception. However, the 50-50 cost split keeps the repair costs low for both the property owner and the City.
Can I take out a tree that is damaging the sidewalk?

Yes, but you must first consult with the City's Forester.  The Forester will come to your property, evaluate the tree and any other possible options (such as root removal).  The City's Forestry Division also has a tree planting program that uses the appropriate species of trees.  If the tree planting program has available resources and your site is appropriate, the City will plant the tree.  For more information on getting help with trees, click here.
If the Inspector says the sidewalk needs to be fixed, do I need to get a contractor?

You do not need to get a contractor.  If your sidewalk needs repair, you will be automatically added to the City's repair schedule.  You will also be notified of the "not to exceed" billing amount, so there will be no surprises.  You will be billed after the repair is completed.
You can hire your own contractor, but you must get permits in advance, and you cannot share the cost with the City.
Because the City's contractor repairs many sidewalks at a time, residents have found that utilizing the Sidewalk Repair Program is less expensive than a private contractor.  And again, because the repair costs are shared equally with the City, the cost for the property owner is even lower.
City crews may also patch the damaged sidewalk as a temporary fix at no cost to the property owner.

Could I be sued if someone is injured on the sidewalk in front of my house?

Yes. If a hazardous sidewalk defect in front of your house causes a person to trip, and the person is injured, both the City and the property owner could potentially be sued.  (BMC 16.04.010)
Is there any assistance for low-income homeowners?

Yes.  For low-income homeowners who provide proof of their low-income status, the City will apply a "due-on-sale" lien on the property, so that low-income homeowners do not have to pay the repair costs out of pocket.
This waiver does not apply to commercial properties.

Is the City going to save a lot of money by splitting repair costs with property owners? And if so, what will it do with that money?

Right now, the City spends about $400,000 of General Fund on sidewalk repairs.  About $100,000 in additional funds comes from property owners for sidewalk repairs.  The cost-sharing policy is expected to increase the property-owner contributions to $400,000, which means about $800,000 is projected to be available for sidewalk repairs.  Since those funds can only be spent on sidewalk repair, the City expects a significant increase in the number of repaired sidewalks.


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Susan Wengraf
Berkeley City Council District 6
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